WATERTOWN – Papken V. Janjigian, known as “Pappy” to his friends, passed away on January 16. He was born on January 1, 1929 in Beirut, Lebanon to Vahan and Loussia (née Yacoubian) who were originally from Arabkir and Palu, respectively, ancient Armenian cities in present day Turkey. His parents had settled in Beirut after escaping the Armenian Genocide. Papken was the seventh of nine children. He proved to be an outstanding student, graduating with honors from the American University of Beirut with a Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. A few years later, he traveled to the United States and earned a Master’s degree in 1955 from Colorado State University before returning to Beirut to continue his professional career.
Papken immigrated to the U.S. in 1959 and prepared for the arrival of his family just a few months later. Although he was already a highly educated and qualified engineer, like many immigrants, he was determined to prove his worth. He attended night school at New York University and earned a second Master’s degree while working full time at Malcolm Pirnie, Inc., a civil engineering consulting firm. Papken passed the rigorous Professional Engineer exam on his first attempt and earned his engineering license, which prompted Malcolm Pirnie to send him to Newport, Rhode Island to head a major project for the city. It was during this time that Papken was offered the position of City Engineer of Newport. He served in that capacity as well as Water Director for the next 15 years.
While working for the city of Newport, Papken also taught engineering courses at Roger Williams University. In addition, he was extremely active in several professional organizations. He was appointed by the governor of the state of Rhode Island to the Water Resources Board, he was elected president of the Rhode Island Society of Professional Engineers, and on its centennial, he was elected the first foreign-born president of the New England Water Works Association.
Papken was rehired by Malcolm Pirnie in 1983 to head a large civil engineering project funded by the U.S. government in Egypt. He finally ended his professional career in 1995 after completing a second project in Egypt, this time in the employ of Metcalf and Eddy, a Boston consulting firm.
Papken returned to Newport, a city that he loved, to spend his retirement years. He was a true polymath, having a multitude of interests. He spoke four languages fluently, he was an excellent cook, he was an avid reader, and he especially enjoyed having lively discussions about investing, politics, and international relations with his many friends at the Newport Athletic Club, which he visited every morning without fail. Papken was also a generous supporter of many worthy causes. He was a life trustee of the Armenian Assembly of America and a trustee of the Armenian Museum of America.
Papken is survived by his son Vahan (wife Noone) of Rye Brook, New York, his daughter Kayane (husband Dennis Knudson) of Broomall, Pennsylvania, and his five grandchildren, Lori, Lucine, and Lily Janjigian, and Michael and Talene Knudson. He is also survived by his sister Artemis Nazerian of Manhasset, New York and his numerous nieces and nephews.